HC Deb 01 February 1995 vol 253 cc1071-2
5. Mr. Clifton-Brown

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment has been made of potential instability within the republics and other constituent units which currently comprise the Russian Federation.

Mr. Hurd

The conflict in Chechnya could destabilise the north Caucasus, but has not yet done so. Despite calls for a regional uprising by General Dudayev, fighting has so far been confined to Chechnya. There is no evidence that the conflict has so far stirred up secessionist tendencies elsewhere in the federation.

Mr. Clifton-Brown

In the wake of the Chechnya disaster, does my right hon. Friend believe that the Russian Federation will be able to resist the significant number of secessionist movements elsewhere in the federation? Does he believe that the international community could make available further technical assistance to provide further stability in the former Soviet Union, which must be of paramount interest to this country?

Mr. Hurd

It is not in our interests that the Russian Federation should degenerate into chaos, but my hon. Friend is right in calling what is happening in Chechnya a disaster. The Prime Minister has written to President Yeltsin on the matter and I have been in touch with Mr. Kozyrev. Some humanitarian help is getting through. The Overseas Development Administration, our organisation, has committed £1 million. Half of that will be channelled through the British Red Cross to the international appeal of the International Committee of the Red Cross. The latest tranche of European aid, amounting to a total of £8 million, was announced this morning.

Mr. Robin Cook

May I press on the Foreign Secretary the grave concern across the nation at the scale of military violence in Chechnya? Does he agree that bombing hospitals and village markets serves no legitimate military role and that the west must support those in Russia who, with great personal courage, have condemned such attacks? May I specifically press the Foreign Secretary on the joint military exercise with Russia due to take place later this year? Will he assure the House that it would not be appropriate for British forces to be engaged in a joint exercise with the Russian army, unless the war in Chechnya is first brought to an end and the people of Chechnya are able to live in peace?

Mr. Hurd

The hon. Gentleman has the accent of this right. The point that he made about the disproportionate brutal use of force has already been made by the Prime Minister to President Yeltsin. It is also reflected in the declaration that my European colleagues and I issued at the Foreign Affairs Council on 23 January. There are a number of points coming up, on which we would have been very glad to co-operate with the Russians on specific matters over the coming year. We will still be glad if the Chechen situation can be quickly resolved along the lines set out by the Prime Minister.

The hon. Gentleman has mentioned one area. There is also the signature of the interim agreement, which may be ready by March. At the Foreign Affairs Council we said that we would need to watch what is happening very carefully and judge what further steps might be needed.

Sir Patrick Cormack

Does my right hon. Friend agree that while no individual country or international organisation has the right to encourage rebellion, it is very important that there is unequivocal condemnation of the indiscriminate slaughter of civilians and the destruction of their homes? Will he confirm that that violates the spirit and probably the letter of the Helsinki agreements? Will my right hon. Friend be a little more forthright in his condemnation of what has happened?

Mr. Hurd

We have been very firm, as I was personally in a speech that I made last week. What the Europeans have said, and what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister told President Yeltsin, has left Russia in no doubt about the cloud that Chechnya casts over the reform process and, therefore, over our support for the reform process. We are not supporting personalities in Russia; we are supporting the process of reform.

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